Faces of Fascism
Dr. Walter Greason
12 May 2012
The Congressional Progressive Caucus does more to preserve freedom and democracy than the Tea Party ever will. The difference between the two organizations being that the Caucus defends the right of the Tea Party to exist and participate in political discussion. To this end, the distinction between the two groups reflects a broader problem with conservatism since 1990 – there is no tolerance or respect for opposing perspectives.
The Tea Party is the most recent manifestation of the rising tide of uncompromising rhetoric and policy that reaches back to Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin at the start of the Cold War and Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer after the first World War. These appeals to sanction, censor, and intimidate political opponents rely on a combination of xenophobia, states’ rights ideology, and unreasoning faith in markets. None of these elements are so terrible if they were not linked to efforts to imprison, deport, and kill those who disagreed.
The deepest power of this fascist rhetoric, however, is its legitimation of economic tactics to accomplish the same goals. Globalization lost any moral compass beyond the creation of massive conglomerates and an increasing number of billionaires. Income and wealth stagnation in communities across suburban Philadelphia reflected the ways meritocracy became an excuse for inequality. Property became the primary civic virtue, supplanting life and liberty. The risks of criticism were milder – destitution, disease, unemployment – and the victims could be blamed for their circumstances.
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the southern civil rights movement opened the door to this outcome by framing freedom as access to commercial space. Desegregated buses, theaters, and lunch counters were never the primary goal of the movement for human dignity. Integration became consumerism for all, and the standard of racial equality did not raise African Americans into a segregated white, middle class. Instead, these reforms divided the American working class and created varying degrees of poverty for any Americans outside of the financial sector and the military-industrial complex. Over the next generation, if present-day conservatives succeed, the American populace will become part of the global working class – based on the standards of living in India and China.
The modern experiment in democracy will suffocate under the pressure of corporate freedoms that do not respect individuals, families, or communities. The West Norriton United organization illustrates these tensions. The conversion of the local golf course could revitalize the struggling Main Street economy and lower individual property taxes. Are the resulting jobs, new businesses, and economic growth worth the autonomy of local residents? Should West Norriton become a destination for consumers across the region? Market reasoning affirms the need for a community to change its identity. An informed, public debate that promotes a compromise between new development and local autonomy will begin a process of reconciliation that could save Pennsylvania and the nation from a bleak future. The willingness to work together is the only obstacle.